The term “woman suffrage” refers to the right of women to vote in democratic elections. In the United States, women’s suffrage, outlawing voting prohibitions based on gender, was not granted until 1920, after a 72 year struggle. There were several groups devoted to the cause of women’s suffrage, and many worked tirelessly to change legislation and organize events to promote their cause, including the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848.
Many notable suffrage advocates, often called suffragettes, worked in Pennsylvania as members of local branches of the National American Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and the National Woman’s Party (NWP). The state was not an early adopter of suffrage legislation despite efforts to gain support county-by-county. Support across a large and diverse state was hard to find, and other states were facing the same battle. Through the efforts of women’s rights groups and efforts of suffragettes, the fight for suffrage grew more prominent on a national level. The 19th Amendment was eventually passed in 1920.
The items in this set give students a sense of how a movement for political and social change is organized, including what methods are employed to create a message and gather support for a cause. Students can use this set to analyze an historic movement and ask questions around the successes and limitations of the suffrage movement in Pennsylvania, who was included or not included in the movement, and the role of movements in enacting change.
This set can be tailored to fit grades 7-12. See notes on discussion questions and classroom activities below for specific grade level recommendations.
Elementary Standards Grades 3-8, History, 8.2 Pennsylvania History
8.2.3.A. Identify the social, political, cultural, and economic contributions of individuals and groups from Pennsylvania.
8.2.4.A. Differentiate common characteristics of the social, political, cultural, and economic groups from Pennsylvania.
8.2.5.A. Compare and contrast common characteristics of the social, political, cultural, and economic groups from Pennsylvania.
8.2.6.A. Explain the social, political, cultural, and economic contributions of individuals and groups from Pennsylvania.
8.2.7.A. Identify the social, political, cultural, and economic contributions of specific individuals and groups from Pennsylvania.
8.2.3.B. Identify historical documents, artifacts, and places critical to Pennsylvania history.
8.2.6.C. Explain how continuity and change have impacted Pennsylvania history. • Belief systems and religions • Commerce and industry • Technology • Politics and government • Physical and human geography • Social organizations
8.2.5.D. Examine patterns of conflict and cooperation among groups and organizations that impacted the history and development of Pennsylvania for responding to individual and community needs. • Ethnicity and race • Working conditions • Immigration • Military conflict • Economic stability
8.2.8.D. Compare and contrast examples of how conflict and cooperation among groups and organizations impacted the history and development of Pennsylvania. • Ethnicity and race • Working conditions • Immigration • Military conflict • Economic stability
Secondary Standards Grades 9,12, History, 8.2 Pennsylvania History
8.2.12.B. Evaluate the impact of historical documents, artifacts, and places in Pennsylvania which are critical to U.S. history and the world.
Elementary Standards Grades 3-8, Civics and Government, 5.3 How Government Works
5.3.4.G. Identify individual interests and explain ways to influence others.
5.3.5.G. Describe how groups try to influence others.
Secondary Standards Grades 9, 12, Civics and Government, 5.3 How Government Works
5.3.9.G. Analyze the influence of interest groups in the political process.
5.3.U.D. Evaluate the roles of political parties, interest groups, and mass media in politics and public policy.
Secondary Standards Grades 9,12, Economics, 6.2 Markets and Economic Systems
6.2.9.C. Analyze how media affects economic decisions.
- What were members of the suffrage movement fighting for and what methods did they use to achieve their goals?
- Was everyone united in their views of the suffrage movement? Why or why not?
- Why were the Suffragette Verses (item 1) written?
- Review the poems “Coming”, “We as Women”, “The Reassurance”, and “Song for Equal Suffrage”, in item 1. What stands out to you about them? What kinds of messages do they convey?
- Look at the notices in items 2-5. Why do you think these notices were placed in newspapers? What audiences were reached by these notices? How would you share news about a movement today?
- Review the political cartoons in this set (items 6 and 7). What are political cartoons? What purpose do they serve? How do political cartoons convey their message through their text and imagery? Do you think political cartoons are helpful in spreading a message?
- Review the political cartoons in this set (items 6 and 7). How would a suffragette view the political cartoons in this set? How would someone who is Anti-Suffrage view the cartoons?
- Review the program for the 48th Annual Convention of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association (item 9) and the Proceedings of the 25th Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (item 10), particularly the agendas. What do you think was the purpose of these conventions? What kinds of topics were being discussed? What role do these gatherings play in the movement?
For high school grades:
- After reviewing the set and learning more about the movement, consider the leaders and notable people involved. Who was not present in the conversations around suffrage?
- In considering voices that were not included in conversations around suffrage, think about how the resources we have today (such as social media and the Internet) allow more voices to be part of the discussion. How does technology expand the audience?
- How does change in societal beliefs and policies get made today? Consider technological advances. Contrast how those involved in woman suffrage enacted changed compared to movement leaders today. Are there similar tactics? Refer to notices in items 2-5, for example.
- Why would suffragettes call on the Constitution and other foundational American documents when crafting their persuasive pieces?
For grades 7-10:
- Have students design their own protest banner or poster calling for Votes for Women. Using the documents as a guide, have students research what rousing mantras or phrases suffragettes and other suffrage advocates may have used.
- Have students create their own program of events for a suffrage convention. Using the documents as a guide, particularly items 9 and 10, have students research different suffrage advocates throughout history and construct a convention program with short descriptions of the different speakers’ perspectives and what they might speak about.
For grades 10-12:
- Have students write lyrics to a song, a poem, or a slogan about the suffrage movement, or about a movement of their choice.
- Have students identify relationships between movements and how they learn from and build upon each other. Ask them to research a current movement they are interested in, or a past social movement. For example, students might explore the connections between the movement for women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery. Have students create a Venn Diagram of similarities and differences between the movement of their choice and woman suffrage. Consider their tactics (e.g., protest, demonstrations, conventions, songs) and their aims (legislative change, social change).
We appreciate your feedback on the sets! You can fill out our assessment form to let us know what you think. If you have any questions about the sets or are interested in sets on a specific topic, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Set created by Rocki Schy, Temple University College of Education.